Why are female hormonal cycles always cast in such a negative light?  In an article in the Guardian, Georgina Rippon, professor of neuro imaging at Aston University asks why a “menstrual distress questionnaire” is a standard scientific instrument while an “ovulation euphoria questionnaire” has yet to be designed.  This is a really good question.

Could it be that ovulation is actually an endangered state, mostly now experienced by women newly off the pill and anxious to get pregnant?  And could it be that the wild and powerful aspect of femaleness is a much less attractive object of study to the scientific establishment than our weaker, tamer, vulnerable side?

I have cycled through both these states every month now for over 30 years.  I know both are real, both are natural and both are part of me.  And yet only one of these two poles is acknowledged in my culture.

Through my education, family, community and media I have received buckets of information on the difficulties and shame of bleeding, the pain of cramping and the horrors of pre-menstrual mood.  But even endless internet trawling has failed to turn up much about the other swing of the pendulum: the power, confidence, connection and delight I have experienced leading up to and during ovulation.  I have had to figure this out for myself, slowly, slowly growing to understand the summer as well as the winter of my cycle.

Only now, 30 plus years on, am I beginning to realise what an appallingly skewed and distorted reflection of femaleness we receive in our culture.

So, understanding the condition of femaleness to be one of discomfort and shame, it is small wonder that young women are easily persuaded that switching off the whole messy show with hormonal contraception is a win-win solution: no pregnancy, no cramps, no “being hormonal”

So what are these women missing out on?  Could it be worth the price?  Here are some of the ways in which I have experienced the summer of my cycle:

  • Desire.  Unless you’ve experienced the ripe to bursting desire that comes to accompany ovulation you can’t begin to appreciate the power of this experience
  • Desirability.  I know myself to be desirable.  I am absolutely immune to all the marketing men’s insecurities.  I may have spots, wrinkles, body hair and a thousand other faults but it doesn’t matter.  I know I am attractive.
  • Confidence.  Everything seems to flow.  Fear is gone from me and risks normally unthinkable become as nothing.
  • Creativity.  Without the automatic kosh of fear clubbing them to death before they are even formed, ideas get to arise and develop in freedom in a way that would be impossible at any other time of the month.
  • Awareness, delight and wonder: in sex, in touch, in people, in nature, in art and music.  I feel as if a dirty veil has been lifted and my perceptions are temporarily opened to the miraculous nature of things.  This is perhaps the hardest aspect to describe as such un-empirical experience has become heretical to our scientific-objectivist ideology.  It is, nevertheless real and at these times I know that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our current philosophy.

So, could it be worth giving all this up for the sake of convenient avoidance of pregnancy?

No, I say. No and no and no.  Every woman was born to know herself as desiring and desirable, as confident, as creative and as open to the miraculous.  As well as sometimes angry, uncomfortable, weak and awkward.

If some women, in the absence of proper information, have contented themselves with a placid, sensible, tame, all-month-round sameness, they have been sold very far short.  It’s our urgent responsibility to help younger women understand our incredible female strength as well as our weakness.  Feminist scientists please: where’s that ovulation euphoria questionnaire?